Feb 16, 2023, 12:11pm EST

Spain approves paid menstrual leave, joining short list of countries offering time off for periods


Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

Spain passed a law permitting three to five days of paid menstrual leave for people suffering from painful periods, becoming the first European country to pass such legislation.

The move, which will be state-funded, was part of a wide-ranging reproductive rights package that will also allow anyone 16 or older to access abortions or change the gender listed on their identity documents. Irene Montero, Spain’s equality minister, said the move was “a historic day of progress in feminist rights.”

Spain now joins a short list of countries that offer sick leave, some paid, during menstrual cycles. Here’s a look at other laws around the world.

Spain's Minister for Equality Irene Montero claps as LGBT activists celebrate after a vote giving the final approval to a law that will make it easier for people to self-identify as transgender, at the Parliament in Madrid, Spain, February 16, 2023.
REUTERS/Susana Vera
Title icon

The View From Zambia

Zambian women are entitled to one day off per month to deal with the side effects of their menstrual cycles. The day, colloquially referred to as “Mother’s Day,” can be taken by all women regardless of their marital status or if they have children.

The law is vaguely worded, which has caused some confusion about the guidelines surrounding when it can be taken.


Speaking to the BBC in 2017, former Zambian Labor Minister Joyce Nonde-Simukoko warned against using the day to call out of work for an unrelated reason: “You shouldn’t even leave town, be found doing your hair or shopping,” she said. “You can be fired. For example, somebody was found farming after taking Mother’s Day and she was fired.”

Title icon

The View From China

Four Chinese provinces offer paid menstrual leave to working women. Shanxi, Ningxia, Hubei, and Anhui provinces all provide some form of leave. In Ningxia, a 2016 law offered two days per month of period leave, and employers are required to provide it or face penalties.

In Anhui, up to two days are available with a doctor’s note.

Title icon

The View From South Korea

One day of menstrual leave is available to South Korean women, but some women don’t know it is available, and many avoid using their entitlement at all for fear of a backlash in male-dominated workspaces.

Speaking to The Korea Times, 28-year-old Yoon Jin Sung described feeling guilty if she used her time off because her colleagues would need to take over her work. She thinks better public awareness about period pain is needed for women to feel like they can take the day off. “It’s not a privilege at all,” she said. “We need an environment where we can use the leave when we need to.”